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Friday, 31 January, 2003, 19:42 GMT
French 'Madonna of euthanasia' jailed
Christine Malevre and lawyer Charles Libmann
Malevre "overstepped her authority"
A female nurse has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the murder of six hospital patients, in a case which has rekindled the euthanasia debate in France.

Christine Malevre, 33, was found guilty of assisting or causing the deaths of the patients, who were terminally ill, at a lung hospital in a Paris suburb.

If Christine Malevre had been tried for killing seven people in good health, we'd be far from 10 years and closer to life in prison

Olivier Morice
Lawyer for victims' families
She was also banned for life from the nursing profession, but was acquitted of a seventh count of murder.

Malevre is originally said to have admitted helping about 30 terminally ill patients to die but later confessed to just four deaths.

She claims she acted out of compassion and was merely helping to end people's suffering.

'Morbid fascination'

Prosecutors had asked for a minimum sentence of 10 years.

"If Christine Malevre had been tried for killing seven people in good health, we'd be far from 10 years and closer to life in prison," said Olivier Morice, representing the families of three of the victims.

Defence lawyer Charles Libmann said before the verdict that other doctors and nurses had committed euthanasia without being brought to trial.

But families of several of the deceased deny that their relatives had asked to die, and some campaign groups which support voluntary euthanasia have not backed Malevre's case.

Psychiatrists who examined her concluded that she had a "morbid fascination with illness" and was aware of what she was doing.

"Christine Malevre is not the Madonna of euthanasia she makes herself out to be, but on the contrary a woman who is unbalanced and who deliberately overstepped her authority," Mr Morice told French television during the trial.

Charge upgraded

Ms Malevre worked at the Francois-Quesnay hospital in the Paris suburb of Mantes-la-Jolie from February 1997 to May 1998.

In July 1998 she was arrested after an investigation into suspicious deaths at the hospital.

She initially admitted to helping 30 patients to die, though her lawyer said that at the time she was under the influence of neuroleptic drugs.

She was charged with manslaughter and released pending her trial, but later admitted to just four deaths, of which she said one was "accidental".

On the basis of psychiatric reports, the charges against her were upgraded to murder.

In the final report, 11 suspicious deaths were recorded, but in four of these there was insufficient evidence to press charges.

See also:

20 Jan 03 | Europe
01 Apr 02 | Europe
28 Nov 00 | Euthanasia
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